Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.
EMAIL INTERVIEW – Jim Lee and Ken Sinclair
Jim Lee, CEO Cimetrics Inc
Sinclair: Jim, as one of the original pioneers in the field of Continuous Building Commissioning and Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) technologies, what do you think of the recent emergence of offerings such as JCI’s Panoptix, IBM-Tririga’s Smarter Buildings, and now Honeywell’s Attune Advisory Services?
Lee: Timely question
Cimetrics we are thrilled to see entry of new players large and small
into this marketplace. We have been in this business for
12+ years, so these recent developments validate that FDD and analytics
are the most interesting value propositions today for energy efficiency
and carbon reduction in buildings. The basic parameters for doing
business in this area have not changed: Residential and
Commercial buildings account for almost 39 percent of total US energy
consumption, and 38 percent of US carbon emissions. The market
overall has finally come to understand these facts, and the resulting
awareness has led to a refreshing increase in customer demand.
We recognize that applying advanced analytics to the intersection of
energy supply and demand will make a meaningful difference to the
entire buildings/energy efficiency marketplace. And it’s exciting
to see our original hypotheses being widely adopted and put to
work: Continuous Building Commissioning optimizes performance of
all building systems, including mechanical systems, control systems,
and electrical systems. Not to mention the equally important
“comfort and productivity” factor that makes a real difference for the
people working in these environments, with direct and indirect
Sinclair: What do you make of the many venture-funded start-ups that have entered the space?
Lee: I think they’re to be
saluted Ken. In
fact, after some study we have found that a few of these firms have
originated some innovative approaches to financing energy efficiency
services. We also believe that these enterprises may be in
for a hard start and may struggle with many of the issues we have
successfully dealt with in the development of our products and service
As you know, there’s 30 years of history behind the direct digital controls installed in today’s physical world. This stuff is out there in buildings functioning in different forms and combinations. There are many variants of building automation systems, and many are mixtures of proprietary legacy systems. It may prove challenging for some of the newer firms to assemble all of the knowledge and experience essential to reliably and efficiently connect to these systems at the enterprise level while complying with Cybersecurity requirements.
In today’s world of venture financing, the expectations are high for
quick returns, and this constant pressure can often force young
companies to make hasty decisions while trying to build a sustainable
and profitable business. Cimetrics has already established a solid
position in the market and we continuously fine-tune our offerings to
deliver new benefits to our customers and to the service organizations
that install and support building automation systems in our mutual
Sinclair: Jim, can you explain the difference between fault detection and diagnostic products versus dashboard data visualization products?
Generally speaking these are two different approaches to using
data. The two
goals on analytics and FDD are: 1) to identify or determine
faults; and 2) to determine the root cause of the problem. From
our perspective, our Infometrics platform aggregates millions of
data points that are run through algorithms that cleanse that data and
prepare it for advanced analysis through our rules engines and
performance measurement algorithms. Our platform compiles, synthesizes
and diagnoses the root cause of problems. This is an automated
fault detection and diagnostic process designed to manage vast data
sets across entire building portfolios and then present this
intelligence to our clients and analysts.
On the other hand, the goal of data visualization products is to collect data and serve it up into a dashboard. These dashboards summarize data collected from building systems and more typically, from meters to show energy use against benchmarks. While data visualization products comprise an important technology and are very useful to present information, humans simply do not have the time or ability to review thousands of points of data, and to make sense of the complicated interrelationships in building systems.
At Cimetrics we have focused on development of automatic analytic and diagnostics applications that detect, compile, analyze and synthesize diagnoses of problems in buildings. Our dashboards and reports provide actionable intelligence rather than raw information.
Sinclair: I see that there are a lot of traditional commissioning players that are offering continuous commissioning. What do you make of this development Jim?
Lee: There seem to be a number of companies who blur the line between retro commissioning and continuous building commissioning. I think that is a mistake because there is a vast difference between these. Let me take a second to explain what I mean: In traditional commissioning a commissioning agent typically does a design review with a physical inspection of the mechanical and control systems in a building. The commissioning agent will then spot-check the facility for operation of those systems and compare against the specifications. In retroactive commissioning, the agent would review the existing systems and original equipment drawings and design documents, and review available data from the BAS to “re-commission” the building. This is very much a manual process.
Ongoing commissioning, which includes the continuous commissioning you have asked about, is the persistent and interactive process of monitoring building system performance using computer automation and expert data analysts. In the Ongoing or Continuous commissioning process, telemetry from 10,000’s of data points are collected from building automation systems, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So the difference between these is very real and significant: The yield and efficiency of someone trying to look at a screen with thousands of data points in real-time, is simply no match for an enterprise platform working with rules-based algorithms.
Sinclair: Financing upgrades and ECM’s in buildings can be difficult. How does Cimetrics approach this problem?
Lee: This is becoming one
of the more
interesting customer issues where we provide immediate value. As we all
know, getting capital projects justified and approved is a lengthy and
time consuming process for both vendors and facilities staff. Also
present is the problem of aligning the various trades and vendors
together to provide a complete and workable solution. Energy Service
Companies (ESCO’s) offer a stipulated savings performance contracting
model to finance projects that have multiple energy conservation
measures (ECM’s). The short term payback ECM’s help underwrite longer
term ECM’s and this enables the customer perform upgrades to their
systems without capital expenditure. Cimetrics works very well in
this model as an M&V platform and to identify ECM’s with energy
saving calculations that help validate the ROI.
Sinclair: This sounds very exciting – what is next for you?
Ken, great question and one I’ll enjoy responding to. Cimetrics has
been ahead of the curve for a very long time. We have seen fads come
and go, and have carefully considered our approach to building our
business as we monitor the evolution of the markets and avoid getting
sidetracked. As a result, we have carefully invested our time and
resources in building an enterprise level platform with highly advanced
features and analytic functions. We have embedded Cybersecurity
elements necessary to confidently serve our government, commercial and
We think the entry of the major BAS and IT companies into this space
bodes very well for us, given our relationships and experience
with all types of building systems. Providing BACnet functionality and
software technologies to most of the BAS industry certainly gives us a
large advantage in understanding connectivity and data management
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